Illinois bans 'ghost guns,' becoming first Midwestern state to do so

The sale and possession of "ghost guns" in Illinois became illegal Wednesday after Gov.J.B. Pritzker signed a bill aimed at eliminating the unserialized firearms.

Ghost guns are homemade weapons that are untraceable and don't need a background check to be acquired. They can be purchased online and can be assembled in just 15 minutes.

"The people creating, selling, and purchasing these firearms know that they’re working to circumvent common-sense gun laws that ensure guns stay out of the hands of traffickers, abusers, and convicted criminals," Pritzker said. "We are seeing these unserialized guns being built in basements by those who should never have had access to such dangerous weapons and then used to commit heinous crimes, and it must be stopped to keep Illinoisans safe."

The legislation comes after President Joe Biden issued an executive order in April requiring serial numbers on the guns, and background checks for those who buy them.

The untraceable weapons are a growing problem across the nation. Illinois, on Wednesday, became the first state in the Midwest to make them illegal.


"Ghost guns are deadly weapons with horrifying implications," said Pritzker. "Last year, over 20,000 ghost guns were involved in criminal investigations nationwide. Tenfold increase from 2016," said Pritzker.

Ghost guns can be made at home using kits purchased online that don't require background checks.

"A child should not be able to build an AR-15 like they’re building a toy truck. A convicted domestic abuser should not be able to evade scrutiny by using a 3D printer to make a gun," said Pritzker.

Plus, ghost guns are cheaper and easier for people to access than a conventional firearm.

"It’s the largest growing seized gun in the City of Chicago in the last two years," said Supt. David Brown, Chicago Police Department.

In Chicago alone, between Jan. 1 and May 16, 2021, police recovered 95 ghost guns. In the same time frame this year, CPD has already taken 264 ghost guns off the streets.

In all of 2021, 458 ghost guns were recovered by CPD.

This month, Illinois State Police reported 28 cases involving ghost guns.

"Gov. Pritzker understands the urgent need for this law, which we pushed for to address the proliferation of these guns that criminals increasingly use to avoid accountability for the violence they inflict upon our communities," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said.

Over the weekend, Dart said deputies recovered two ghost guns when they stopped a car on Michigan Avenue.

Also last weekend, when a large and chaotic crowd gathered in Millennium Park, seven guns were recovered by Chicago police – one of them was a ghost gun.

"And trust me, these guns are not being used by collectors," said Dart. "They’re being used by people who we routinely pull over in the middle of a criminal act, and are finding these guns on them."

Earlier this month, an Oak Park and River Forest High School student was charged for bringing a loaded ghost gun to school.

"Cracking down on unregistered firearms is an essential step to putting an end to the epidemic of gun violence in our state," said the bill's chief co-sponsor State Rep. Kam Buckner, who is also running to become the city's next mayor. "Make no mistake, the only people who need their guns to be untraceable are people planning to commit crimes."

Local activists, like Delphine Cherry, who lost two of her children to gun violence, said they believe this is a step in the right direction.

"I believe this law will save lives," said Cherry. "It breaks my heart to see other mothers go through what I went through," said Cherry.